Two teams sit atop the conference through 12 games with 3-0 records. While just five teams have gone on the road in conference play and won, we are starting to see the field settle for what should be an exciting conference race.
Stock Up: John Becker, Vermont – The Catamounts’ freshman class scored 21 of the team’s 71 points in their convincing home win over Stony Brook. Considering the Catamounts were not picked to necessarily lead the league this season, after winning the conference regular season title with six seniors, Vermont has cemented themselves as a contender for the title. Becker won the conference’s Coach of the Year award last season, but if he can clinch the regular season title or get home court for two rounds of the America East Playoffs, he should automatically get it again in year four. While there might be a claim for them to lead the way outright and be the favorite, it will be up to Becker and Vermont to temper those expectations three games into conference play.
“We have to continue to get better and not think we’ve done anything yet,” Becker said. “This is the first time we’ve beat two Division I teams in back-to-back games, its the first time we’ve done that this year, so we really haven’t done much yet.”
After their final non-conference game on Wednesday against Dartmouth, the Catamounts re-enter America East play and have a good chance of going 6-0. KenPom gives them a 46% chance of winning their next three conference games, road games at UMBC and New Hampshire to go along with a home game against Binghamton.
Stock Up: Albany – Don’t look now but the Great Danes have won six of their last seven. It could’ve been seven of seven if not for a rapid flu that decimated the roster after the holiday break, which denied them the services of junior Peter Hooley at Niagara. The reason Albany will be a contender again is thanks to how seamlessly junior college transfers like Evan Singletary and Ray Sanders have found their roles in the lineup. Singletary is seventh in the conference with 12.9 ppg.
Stock Down: UMBC – The Retrievers could easily be 2-0 in conference play, but a few untimely plays late cost Aki Thomas and his program two home wins. UMass Lowell outscored UMBC 19-1 to close out their conference opener, but the worst part is the Retrievers couldn’t make a field goal over the game’s final 11 minutes. For a team that shot 45% from the field in the half, a few baskets could have made a difference in closing a victory. On Sunday, it was the same story — they shot a second half field goal percentage of 54% and had a chance to tie the game, but fell 63-60 to New Hampshire.
There are signs of optimism as Houston Baptist transfer Cody Joyce (11.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Richmond graduate transfer Wayne Sparrow ranks sixth in the conference with 13.1 ppg. Now the Retrievers go to Stony Brook, followed by home games against Vermont and Hartford to try and secure their first conference win.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.